4 Ways Street Harassment and Domestic Violence Intersect

CASS Board Photo

Today DC is decked out in purple for Purple Thursday, an awareness day organized by the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence (DCCADV). We at CASS are lending our support because we believe that street harassment and domestic violence are intrinsically linked.

1) Victim-blaming is rampant in both.

“Why didn’t she leave?” is a common question people ask when they hear about domestic violence. Take the very public cases of Rihanna or Janay Palmer, for example.

Similarly, men and women who experience street harassment and share their stories often get asked questions like, “why did you wear that outfit?”, “why didn’t you take a self-defense class?”, or “why can’t you take that as a compliment?”.

These questions put the blame squarely on the survivor, not the perpetrator. Such questions allow the violence and harassment to continue and they create an environment where people who speak out aren’t taken seriously.

2) Both are products of rape culture.

Common to both is a sense of entitlement and the need to exert power over someone else. Street harassment contributes to a society that allows a rape culture to thrive–a world where men feel comfortable giving unsolicited sexual advances to women they don’t know in public is the same world where men feel comfortable with rape. As Phaedra Starling writes:

A man who ignores a woman’s NO in a non-sexual setting is more likely to ignore NO in a sexual setting, as well…if you pursue a conversation when she’s tried to cut it off, you send a message. It is that your desire to speak trumps her right to be left alone.

3) Victims do not feel safe.

Domestic violence victims usually do not have any place to go where they will feel safe. Because of the ongoing history of the abusive relationship, the perpetrator knows all of the victim’s options and can follow the victim there. It takes money, a support network, and time for detailed planning to ensure that a victim can escape.

At CASS, we know that people who regularly experience sexual harassment in public often feel unsafe or vulnerable — and this can affect how how they live their lives, limiting their choices of where to go and how to get there.

4) Bystanders can make a difference.

Bystanders can make a big difference in ending the social acceptability of domestic violence and street harassment by speaking out. At CASS, we encourage men and women to share their stories with us and to attend trainings, like Safe Bars, to learn how to identify and intervene to prevent sexual harassment and assault.


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GREAT NEWS: Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Gains Sponsorship to Reach Senate!

CASS is happy to report that the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has achieved the 60 votes necessary to bypass a filibuster! VAWA is the 1994 law central to the nation’s efforts to fight domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. A floor vote is expected as early as next week.

Please share our photo if you’re *THIS HAPPY* to hear that policymakers are moving in the right direction in taking violence against women seriously!

District Karaoke Against Domestic Violence! Wednesday, Dec. 5

CASS is pleased to announce we are part of the host committee for District Karaoke Against Domestic Violence, 12/5 at Policy Lounge on 14th St, NW! District Karaoke, DC’s only team-based karaoke league, is proud to sponsor a pay-for-performance fundraiser that will help raise awareness and money to benefit the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence (DCCADV).  All proceeds will support DCCADV’s mission of eliminating domestic violence in the District.

District Karaoke Against Domestic Violence

Wednesday, December 5th
Policy Restaurant & Lounge
1904 14th St. NW
Tickets $10 > >
Includes one free beer or glass of wine
FREE Peroni Beer from 8:00pm-9:00pm



In order to sing, you’ll need to make a donation to the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence:

To Sing a Song: $10
To Sing a Group Song: $20
To Sing “I Will Survive:” $50

Among others...


Karma Cottman, Kristin Cabral, Gelena Constantine, Collective Action for Safe Spaces (CASS), Greg’s List DC, Andrea Gleaves, Jennie Johnson, Jessica Kelly, Jesse B Rauch, Mindi Westhoff & Women’s Information Network (WIN)

(For questions on joining our host committee please email agleaves@dccadv.org)

Follow @DistrictKaraoke @DCCADV and #DKADV on twitter
to stay up-to-date on event details!                           

Celebrate Domestic Awareness Month (DVAM) & Help Keep DC Safe!

Keep DC Safe:
2nd Annual Celebration of Survivors & Advocates for Empowerment, Inc

October 4th, 6-8:00 pm
Room & Board
1840 14th Street NW

Get your ticket now!

Please join our friends at SAFE tomorrow, Thursday, October 4th at the 2nd Annual Keep DC SAFE party! Listen to the amazing musical stylings of The Mavins while hanging out on the beautiful roof top of Room & Board! Revel in the awesome door prizes you won with your friends! Open bar (including bartending efforts by CASS’s own Julia Strange)! Snacks from amazing DC culinary institutions! Everyone is welcome. Tickets $20 and $25 at the door.

All proceeds go to emergency services for survivors of domestic violence in DC.
Follow @DC_SAFE to get updates on this fun time to be had!


SAFE, Inc. provides crisis intervention and advocacy services to over 5,000 domestic violence victims each year in the DC Metro Area. Our mission is to ensure the safety and self-determination of domestic violence survivors in Washington, DC through emergency services, court advocacy and system reform. SAFE, Inc. began as part of the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 1997 with one advocate and became an independent organization in 2006.  Since then, SAFE has become a leading force in the fight against domestic violence in the District of Columbia.

How “Twilight” Explains Bar Behavior

Edward Cullen or just another night out in DC?

This piece was originally published by Borderstan, an online news site covering the Dupont-Logan-U Street neighborhoods in Washington, DC. It is republished by CASS with permission from the author. 

Author’s Note: All stories presented are actual life experiences of male and female Borderstan residents. Their anonymity shall be preserved.


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I’ve lost track of how many bars there are in Borderstan. In the neighborhood, we literally have places to imbibe on every corner. It follows that we have a robust drinking culture here, too. Along with drinking comes merriment, of which we greatly approve.

However, there is a darker side to revelry. Since Stephanie Meyer published the Twilight series, I’ve noticed that human conduct (under the influence) has gone from fun and frivolous to well, more vampire-like. After asking around, I realized I wasn’t the only one seeing this.

Here are some similarities between Twilight and DC bar behavior

“Every time he touched me, in even the most casual way, my heart had an audible reaction.”
-Bella Swan, Twilight, Chapter 16, p.335

“I was chatting with a hot guy during happy hour one Friday. He reached up to point to something, only his hand grazed my breast in the process. He didn’t apologize. I covered my breast at that point. Less than 10 seconds later, he grabbed the hem of my dress and shook it. I told him to knock it off, he got angry and touched me again! I left pissed and uncomfortable.”

“I’m feeling extremely insignificant...”
-Bella Swan, Twilight, Chapter 15, p.326

“It was really late one night on 17th street. I was walking home, and out of nowhere, a guy came out and spanked me with his hand. Just like that! I ran home.”

“Yeah, it’s an off day when I don’t get somebody telling me how edible I smell.”
-Bella Swan, Twilight, Chapter 14, p.306

“I was out one night with a guy friend on U Street. We’re drinking and making jokes, it’s all good! Until he leaned over, hugged me and wound up putting his face in my boobs, and bit me in the arm…don’t think that’s allowed in The Saloon! Not to mention he made an obnoxious comment about how “if he didn’t have a girlfriend…” Let’s just say Dracula is not my friend anymore, and that I feel really sorry for his girlfriend.”

“I tried to flirt — it worked better than I thought it would.”
-Bella Swan, Twilight, Chapter 9, p.184

“A year ago, I went out with a former friend. We had a flirty thing up to that point, but he had a girlfriend so I counted on nothing crossing the line. We had been drinking a lot…he started unbuttoning my top in the bar. I didn’t know what to do, so I just got out of there as soon as I could. Looking back, it was scary as crap. I don’t talk to him anymore, really.”

“I’m not quite that delicate.”
-Bella Swan, Twilight, Chapter 10, p.197

“Went out dancing with my girls on a weekend, and somehow wound up with some guy trying to grind me into a wall. His hands were everywhere, so I slapped him and told him to back off.”

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If you want to defend yourselves just in case your night of inebriated revelry turns Twilight on you, check out the self-defense classes at the studio in Chinatown. For even more resources, feel free to contact namita[at]borderstan[dot]com.

For those of you who don’t grope, grab, spank, bite or undress your friends or strangers without consent in public places, thank you for keeping our social lives and neighborhoods enjoyable.